A Million Ways to Die in the West

Year: 2014
Production Co: Bluegrass Films
Studio: Universal
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Producer: Seth MacFarlane/Jason Clark/Scott Stuber
Writer: Seth MacFarlane/Alec Sulkin/Wellesley Wild
Cast: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, Wes Studi, Alex Borstein, Ralph Garman, Christopher Lloyd, Gilbert Gottfried, Jamie Foxx, Ewan McGregor, Bill Maher, Ryan Reynolds

Like many a TV comic before him, Seth MacFarlane suffers when given a 90-minute movie. He's just too comfortable in the 22-minute structure where the zippiness and pace of things like American Dad and Family Guy paste over any shortcomings in the stories (and that's not a criticism - a 22-minute TV show needs hardly any story).

I wanted to like Ted much more than I did, but was willing to put my experience of it down to just not being in the mood or seeing it in a nearly empty theatre – any comedy this broad needs a theatre full of people laughing to really deliver it to your senses. But in light of A Million Ways To Die in The West it seems Ted wasn't such an aberration after all.

I'm being needlessly critical, of course. But if this review talked solely about the good points, it'd just talk about a bunch of the jokes. Some of them are laugh out loud funny, more of them less so, and the end result is like someone asked a ten year old boy to make a comedy western and he asked his ribald old Uncle to write a few gags for it.

MacFarlane writes and directs himself as Albert, a guy in the old West with no special qualities apart from apparently being the only one who's dropped in from another time and can see what a terribly dangerous place in history everyone lives in.

In fact that's one of the movie's interesting points – there was probably never a chance (or a point) in going for historical accuracy, but the script cherry picks point of views from both the era and the modern day for maximum comic effect. Case in point? Amanda Seyfried's character Louise tells Albert she still has plenty of life to live because people are 'living to 35 nowadays' as she breaks up with him, despite the fact that people in the old west probably had no concept of 'dating' or 'breaking up'.

When Anna (Theron), the wife of villainous gunslinger Clinch (Neeson) rides into town in advance of his raiding party, she and Albert form an easy friendship that turns into romance, letting her see a way out from Clinch's evil marriage.

For a 'stupid' comedy, there's actually a lot of themes and ideas in it, not least of which is the central comical conceit – that everything from wild animals to the doctor are likely to kill you before your time. There's also a subplot that's insightful despite itself, about how much Albert misses Louise but how bad she is for him, making him feel like a loser who has to pursue her and prove himself worthy (something Anna, with her easy charm, dispels).

There's an inspired and classic cameo like something straight out of a Family Guy episode, and you'll laugh often enough. But it's still a puerile mess and far from the funniest comedy ever.

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